Diagnosed with Brain Tumor, Girl Rallies Family, Herself

Family chooses chemotherapy recommended by Golisano physician

May 20, 2005

Nine months after Christina Wilmoth was diagnosed with a brain tumor, her father occasionally ponders what might have been. 

“The doctors tell us that if Christina was diagnosed with this 15 years ago, the outcome may have been very different,” Tony Wilmoth says. “Fortunately, we were in the right place at the right time.”

Today, 12-year-old Christina is on the road to recovery and a shining example of what modern medicine and a winning attitude can accomplish at Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong. She is one of five Miracle Kids who will be honored by the hospital during its Miracle Weekend celebration June 3-4.

Christina was a fifth-grader at Wolcott Street School in Leroy when she was diagnosed with a brain tumor in September 2004. She had complained of headaches and tunnel vision, and her parents took her for some precautionary tests. They were floored when the results were revealed. “The doctor was as shocked as us,” Tony Wilmoth says.

Christina was referred to Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong, where she met Dr. David Korones, a pediatric hematologist/oncologist. Further tests showed that the tumor was large, inoperable, and in a critical area of the brain. Tony recalls that he and his wife, Renee, were “petrified that our daughter wasn’t going to live to see Christmas.”

That evening, Christina was summoned to the hospital’s pediatric emergency department. Tests done earlier in the day showed the tumor was causing salt imbalances; doctors also realized the girl was suffering from hydrocephalus, a fluid build-up in the ventricles of the brain. Dr. Howard Silberstein, the only pediatric neurosurgeon in Rochester, performed a biopsy and placed a ventricular shunt to reduce brain swelling.

Now, it was time to address the cancer, and Christina was faced with several options for treatment. “Dr. Korones was fantastic in helping us obtain a second opinion,” Renee Wilmoth says. “All of the experts agreed on the type of tumor, but they disagreed on how to treat it.”

Nationally, many hospitals recommend a strong dose of radiation therapy without chemotherapy. Korones encouraged the family to consider chemotherapy followed by low doses of radiation. The family also received wise counsel from Dr. Sandy Constine, a pediatric radiation oncologist at Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong. Christina’s parents agreed with the Rochester approach.

“We recommended the chemotherapy because, if it worked, it meant she could get a smaller dose of radiation to the brain,” Korones says. “A smaller dose would hopefully decrease the risk of learning disability, memory loss, and attention problems.”

Christina endured three months of chemotherapy and four weeks of radiation treatments. “I have the utmost admiration for her courage,” her father says. “When she was diagnosed, she looked at my wife and said, ‘It’s OK, Mom. I know that I am going to be OK because God is with us.’ She’s quiet and reserved, but also very perceptive. I think her attitude made a big difference.”

The treatment worked. The tumor rapidly disappeared and today Christina returns on a regular basis to ensure there is no recurrence. She is looking forward to a bright future, which she hopes will involve a career as a veterinarian.

“Every step of the way – whether it was right after brain surgery, during hard-hitting chemotherapy, or day after day of radiation – Christina kept smiling, and was always remarkably polite, respectful, and patient,” Korones says. “And she had a never-ending supply of knock-knock jokes that kept all of us laughing.  She is wise beyond her years, and an inspiration to us all.”

Miracle Weekend celebration

Miracle Weekend is always one of the most exciting times of the year for Golisano Children’s Hospital. It includes two major events.

The Golisano Children’s Hospital Telethon will be broadcast live from the hospital on 10NBC June 3 and June 4. In addition, Miracle Weekend always includes the Stroll for Strong Kids, to be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, June 4, at Genesee Valley Park. Children’s activities and registration will begin at 9 a.m. When finished with their “Stroll,” walkers will be treated to a free lunch. There will be music by Gary the Happy Pirate, and many fun activities for the kids. To sponsor Christina in the Stroll, call the family at (585) 768-9423.

Participants are asked to raise money through sponsorship pledges from family members, friends and co-workers. Prizes will be awarded to the top fund-raisers. The event is expected to draw 2,000 and raise $200,000. Pre-registration is required by Thursday, May 26. To register for the Stroll for Strong Kids, or learn more about any Miracle Weekend event, call 585-273-5948 or visit www.gchas.org.

In addition to honoring children such as Christina, Miracle Weekend allows the hospital to raise funds that provide needed equipment for the children it serves, and items that make their stay a little easier.

Money raised will be used by Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong to buy equipment, such as preemie blood-pressure cuffs, and supplies, such as IV pole wagons, videos and games, and sleeper chairs so parents have a comfortable place to rest when they stay with their children.

For Media Inquiries:
Heather Hare
(585) 273-2840
Email Heather Hare